The crossword puzzle that predicted the future with complete confidence

June 22, 2011 | By Abraham | 28 comments

I’d heard of the famous NYT crossword that predicted the winner of the 1996 presidential elections, but I hadn’t ever seen it till today…

The day before the election, the clue for 39-Across was “Lead story in tomorrow’s newspaper (!), with 43-Across.”

43-Across was “Elected,” so 39-Across obviously needed to be the name of the as-yet-unchosen winner.

How did the puzzle maker know who would be elected? He didn’t.

But he was safe because both “Clinton” and “Bob Dole” fit in the puzzle.

Check it out…

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28 Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    41 down: “provider of support, for short” = Bra.

    If The answer was Clinton, it would be “IRA” and the only IRA I know of, was a terrorist group in Northern Ireland.

    Therefore, fail “amazing” crossword is fail.

    1. David says:

      Hmm, here in the US (where the New York Times crossword puzzle is published) we don’t have Irish terrorist groups (IRA, you say?). Perhaps where you live, they don’t have Individual Retirement Accounts. It is abbreviated IRA. It’s a way to accrue tax deferred savings for retirement. A means of support, so to speak. (How do they save for retirement in Ireland, or does the government pay everything?)

      However, this amazing crossword puzzle would be even more amazing if they had weaved “bra” in with Clinton’s name, rather than Dole’s.

        1. Slipjig says:

          As a professional crossword constructor, I suggest you look at some current puzzles from the New York Times, as well the other major US markets such as the LA Times and Wall Street Journal. If you’re mostly accustomed to British crosswords (your comment about “3 & 4″ indicates you might be, as American crosswords have never used that convention), allow me to correct you on a few matters:

          1) While complete words are preferable, initialisms are, even by the most respected constructors, acceptable, common, and often necessary, given that US puzzles have stricter standards for grid layouts, i.e. no “unchecked” (uncrossed) letters and preference toward more white space, like the upper left and lower right corners of the puzzle above. These make it significantly more difficult to fill with non-obscure words.

          2) The New York Times does not use “2 words” notifications in its clues, to increase the challenge level. Some publications do, but as stated above even those don’t break entries down into individual word lengths like “3 & 4.”

          Note that the above rules don’t apply to British-style or cryptic crosswords, which typically have about 50% of their lettered squares unchecked and which usually provide word lengths for both one-word and multi-word answers. And again speaking as a constructor, I can tell you that creating a grid like the one featured takes enormous amounts of skill, not to mention the ingenuity behind coming up with the central idea to begin with. If I come up with one puzzle in my career that is even have as brilliant as this one, I will die a happy man. Far, FAR from fail.

    2. clew says:

      Anderson’s weak, poorly researched and ignorant argument for the “fail” of the “‘amazing’ crossword” is fail.

  2. Jay says:

    Anderson isn’t investing for his retirement it seems. I wouldn’t mind the support provided by an “Investment Retirement Account” (IRA).

    Anderson, fail.

  3. Capt. Obvious. says:

    The cleverness would be lost on anyone who wrote BLINTON though..

    anderson FAILED btw

    peace

  4. Easy Americanos says:

    anyone outside the states wouldnt have heard of investment retirement accounts, to Europeans,its called a pension fund. Ha and the government pay for nothing,ha

  5. Sankey says:

    “If The answer was Clinton, it would be “IRA” and the only IRA I know of, was a terrorist group in Northern Ireland.”

    Thankfully, the universe of knowledge does not lie within the mind of our dear friend Anderson.

    Alas, if only there was some way for Anderson to be enlightened!!! Of course, a Google query (which would have burnt less calories then their complaining (sorry, their “fail” complaining (or is it complaining “fail”?))) would have quickly helped… They would have to scroll down to the third entry, though. Given how lazy they seem, this might not have happened.

    And, if there was some grave error in this crossword, how conceited would a person have to be to think that they were so special to have discovered it over a decade later? Do you really think that the millions of people who saw it before just missed the error??? Get over yourself!

  6. Dime says:

    Not a crossworder, myself. What’s that last clue: “Much-debated political inits.”?

    What does inits. stand for? I wanted to think institution and it was copied into this article incorrectly.

    And then what does ERA stand for? Equal Rights Ammendment? Not really an institution, so I’m missing something. Assuming the NRA is the National Rifle Association?

    Thanks.

    1. Babs says:

      “Inits” stands for initials. And yes, ERA stands for Equal Rights Amendment and NRA for National Rifle Association, two political topics widely debated,i.e. gun control and women’s rights.

      And what a clever puzzle!

  7. roz says:

    has no one noticed that the down clues do not work with both answers? with ‘yard’ is not a sewing shop purchase, ‘bios’ is not a short writing and era is not a much debated political initial.

    shoe-monkeys. plug-socket-licking shoe-monkeys

    1. Jay says:

      Wrong. Wrong. And wrong. A yard-stick and a yard of fabric can both be purchased at a sewing shop. A bio most certainly can be a short writing, and often is; I had to write a 3 line bio for myself for an interview in a local newspaper. And ERA are the initials for Equal Rights Amendment, a much debated political issue. Don’t take everything so literally, and keep an open mind. Shoe monkey.

    2. Seth says:

      Yard. As in, “I am going down to the sewing shop to purchase a YARD of fabric.”

      Bios. As in, “I am going to read the BIOS on these two gentlemen.”

      ERA. As in, “Some of the people in government have chosen to disagree with the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment).”

      Roz, do some research.

      I know others have already written this but I felt it needed to be said once more just to make sure it sinks in.

  8. Wiggy says:

    All that discussion over the past year and a half about the puzzle itself… what about the intro story?? “The day before the election, the clue for 39-Across was ‘Lead story in tomorrow’s newspaper (!), with 43-Across.’ ” — The day before the election AND the day of the election, no one knows who won. It is the day AFTER election day that people read the results in the newspaper. So really, the paragraph should say “The day of the election….”

    And if it really was published the day before election day, then 39-Across is the fail. “Lead story in THE DAY AFTER tomorrow’s newspaper…”

    Now off to Wikipedia to check… ;-)

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